While I make it home to Arizona and meet with folks nearly every weekend, I recently spent two full weeks in the district during Congress’ April recess. It was great to be home, but I kept a busy schedule and spent a lot of time hearing the concerns of many, including small business leaders, parents, teachers and students across the district.
OUR NEW “GREEN” ECONOMY
With over 300 days of sunshine, one resource that Arizona has plenty of is "energy". As you know, since arriving in Congress, I've been a strong advocate for investing in solar and renewable energy. During the break, I held several events which highlighted using Arizona's abundant resource and toured businesses that are investing in renewable energy and creating new, green jobs right here at home.
During our green-collar jobs tour, I visited three local businesses to see the jobs that have been created, and will be created, aided by the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the stimulus bill. According to The Arizona Republic, the energy provisions of the stimulus bill have the potential to create at least 500,000 jobs!
Additionally, what has become an annual event, my office held its third Sustainability Town Hall: Green Jobs Today for a Strong Economy Tomorrow to discuss how investments in green jobs today can help to strengthen Arizona’s economy.
I heard from energy experts, local leaders, representatives from utility companies, economists, and producers of solar energy to get a better understanding of how current laws and energy policies are affecting Arizona. They provided me with valuable insight as to what steps we can take as we position ourselves as leaders in the solar and renewable energy industry.
As Congress begins the energy debate, I’m glad Arizonans want to take these important steps forward, but we still have a lot of work to do.
DRAWING ATTENTION TO LOCAL CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS
As you know, for the past two years I’ve introduced a bill in the House to block the automatic pay raise given to members of Congress. Despite my efforts to block the pay raise, in 2007 and 2008, Congress raised its own pay. Last year, I donated my pay raise to 10 local charities, and this year I did it again and added an additional five local charities to the list.
With mounting economic hardship, our local charitable organizations are feeling the pinch and I believe they need our help now more than ever so they can continue to provide vital services to those in need. The charities I selected to donate my pay raise serve many different purposes that I deeply care about. The new five charities include:
• Paz de Cristo is an organization that directly provides daily meal service, food boxes, and other assistance to people in need. During the break, I toured Paz de Cristo and saw firsthand the excellent work being done to provide these important services.
• The Sojourner Center operates the nation’s largest domestic violence shelter, providing shelter and support to thousands of individuals affected by domestic violence.
• Arizona Women’s Education and Employment, Inc. offers a full range of evidence-based training and support services to women, men and their families. AWEE helps to develop our workforce and help folks move from welfare to the workplace.
• St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance is the world’s first food bank. They make a big impact here at home by serving 13 of Arizona’s 15 counties and help to improve the quality of life for Arizonans in need.
• Friends of Tempe Center for the Arts promote the artistic activities of the Tempe Center for the Arts. As a longtime supporter of Tempe Center for the Arts I’ve always been impressed with the many ways that they enrich people's lives.
The East Valley Tribune recently wrote an editorial saying that "giving away pay raises is a form of public service." The editorial also highlighted Chandler Unified School District Superintendent, Camille Casteel, who decided to give her pay increase back to a district-related foundation. I applaud her efforts.
And in my case, I believe the real reward will be the ability to draw attention to these local charitable organizations and their tangible contributions to our community.
MEETINGS ACROSS THE DISTRICT
I spent a great deal of time meeting with folks about the issues they’re concerned about and some of the struggles they’re facing.
Especially timely, I had the opportunity to meet with many parents, teachers and students who are being especially hard hit by this economy with cuts to family and school budgets. I visited four valley schools: Cochise Elementary in Scottsdale, Monte Vista Elementary and Akimel A-al Middle School in Ahwatukee, and had lunch on the lawn at Cerritos Elementary School, also in Ahwatukee.
Additionally, I hosted my annual Congressional Arts Competition in Tempe. Over 56 submissions were received by talented high school artists across the district. I continued to be impressed by the talent of Arizona’s students. The winner of the competition hails from Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale.
Rounding out the district work period, I met with East Valley law enforcement officials, spoke with retired military officers in Scottsdale, served as Grand Marshall for the Ahwatukee Easter Parade hosted by Kiwanis Club, and in the spirit of bipartisanship, I appeared with Rep. Jeff Flake at our third Annual Stateman's Breakfast in Chandler.
I believe my title and job description are one in the same - "Representative" - thus it is incredibly important to hear concerns across the district. As always, I appreciate your feedback and ongoing support.
Note: On Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., there will be a foreclosure prevention workshop sponsored by Congressman Mitchell at the Granite Reef Senior Center in Scottsdale. For information on setting up a session with a HUD-certified counselor, contact Congressman Mitchell's office at 480-946-2411 or the Arizona Foreclosure Helpline at 877-448-1211.